The enemy is at home

Jim heartfield jim at
Thu Apr 15 17:58:58 PDT 1999

In message <005201be878a$8a17ba40$41517e86 at>, J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. <rosserjb at> writes

Quoting Denitch and Williams' article.

>> Sadly, some on the left are angrier about NATO's bombing
>> than they are about the Serbian forces' atrocities, even though
>> Milosevic's men have killed more in one Kosovan village than
>> have all the airstrikes.

Everyone else has sounded off against this, so I suppose I am just playing it safe, but this opening line includes the entire confusion that besets the new breed of left-wing war mongers.

There is an old fashioned argument whose logic seems to me to be unavoidable: 'The Main Enemy is at Home'.

My country (in my case Britain, but others here might say the US) is at war with Yugoslavia. I don't live in Yugoslavia, I live in here in the civilised West. What I say is largely directed to the people I know.

What would it mean if I went around Britain denouncing Milosevic and his war. It would mean that I was taking sides with the militarists here, and parroting their propaganda. If I was talking to an audience of Serbs, I would say something different, like 'lay off the Albanians'. But I'm not talking to Serbs.

The left-wing militarists identify Nato as an instrument of good, as though it were a welfare law, or a new public school. But it's not. It doesn't hand out welfare payments. It blows up trains and convoys of refugees. There is no way to make war progressively. You can only make war destructively. And the only way that you can justify that is by dehumanising your enemies.

Who is all this Serb-trashing aimed at? Do Denitch and Williams think that they are reading Nation in Belgrade and will see the error of their ways? Of course not. It is directed at those parts of the radical intelligentsia who refuse to go along with this war-fever. They want to whip up chauvinistic hatred of a people, so that bombing them becomes more palatable. But the people on the train didn't force Albanian refugees from their homes. And the convoy of Albanian refugees certainly didn't do it. But if the Serbs as a people are demonised, then 'collateral damage' becomes acceptable.

Real radicalism means challenging the prejudices of your own day, not re-hashing them and giving them more vigour. With the whole country wrapping itself in war fever, critical thinkers should be trying to call the consensus into question, not beefing it up. There is a good reason that the militarism of the West troubles me more than that of Milosevic. Its because - quite apart from the exponential imbalance between Nato's war machine and Milosevic's - the militarism that is constraining British and American society is its own militarism, not Milosevic's.

Despite the ill-mannered slanders of the War-mongers, there is nobody in the West that has any illusions in any 'progressive' character of the Yugoslav government. It is not necessary here to challenge such beliefs. People in the West do have absurd illusions in the progressive potential of stealth bombers, 'precision weapons', air wars, and ground troops. Those illusions are what needs challenging here. -- Jim heartfield

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